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Addressing Mail Correctly for Deployed Service Members

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By Spc. Blanka Stratford

FORT McPHERSON, GA -- Something as simple as adding the name of the destination country to an address can delay the delivery of mail to service members overseas.

It is a problem that the military postal system encounters daily, said Capt. Faye Slater, Third Army and Coalition Forces Land Component Command chief of theater postal operations.

To alleviate this situation, Slater said help is needed from the family and friends of deployed service members. Senders stateside are actually slowing the delivery of the mail by not properly addressing letters and packages. The sender needs to know the name of the country and the name of the base camp where a service member is stationed are incompatible with regulated military addresses.

Guide Note: In simple terms, what this means is one should not put the country or base in the address when sending mail to deployed service members or service members assigned overseas.

    A1C John Doe
    317 Provisional Squadron
    APO N.Y. 03342
would be correct.
    A1C John Doe
    317 Provisional Squadron
    Boondocks Air Base
    Kuwait
    APO N.Y. 03342
would be incorrect, and may cause the letter to be mis-routed through civilian international mail channels, causing a huge delay in delivery.

"The U.S. Postal Service system has automated sorting machines that read the address and determine whether a letter or package goes through military postal channels, regular USPS or international postal channels," Slater said.

By writing Kuwait or Iraq on a letter or package it is routed through civilian mail channels rather then military ones. When that happens, the mail can be delayed significantly. This is attributable to the sorting machine’s inability to discern whether or not the letter is intended to reach an Army or Fleet Post Office address.

A recent case of this common mistake occurred when Soldiers’ mail was found in the post office in downtown Baghdad rather then being sent to where the Soldiers were deployed.

"They brought us 21 letter trays filled with mail dated between December and February," said Lt. Col. Edward Passineau, commander of the joint military mail terminal at Baghdad International Airport. "Based on the attached (tracking) tags, this mail never went through the military mail channels, but was sent directly from John F. Kennedy Airport and passed through either Kuwait or Jordan."

Additionally, there have been a number of reported cases of internationally channeled military mail being opened, searched through and/or tampered with -- a matter that could potentially be identified as a danger to both individual and unit security, said Slater.

Slater said it is important for loved ones who remain at home to understand the step-by-step procedures that shape the entire military mailing system and current updates on any and all developments made to the military postal service. Knowing the latest rules can help decrease the time needed to process the mail.

"I really believe there is a lack of information and understanding of the military postal system," she said.

Slater hopes to develop awareness by presenting the general public with an idea of the measures and steps taken between the time a letter or parcel initially leaves a sender’s hands and the time it is finally picked up by a recipient.

Particularly in a war zone, there may be instances when several critical measures must be taken into consideration.

"For example, the delivery may possibly be heading for a remote site that is not located near a main logistics hub, and it is not easily accessible," said Slater. "If that’s the case, other issues may emerge, such as organizing a convoy and sustaining certain security procedures, and those issues may delay the anticipated time of the parcel’s arrival."

Force protection on mail convoys is an ever-present issue, and conditions causing delays change daily, she said.

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